What Is the 21-Day Practice Window in the NFL?

The Jets opened Aaron Rodgers' practice window, setting up for a possible return date. What is the 21-day practice window, and will Rodgers play this season?

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been cleared to practice just 11 weeks after surgery for his Achilles injury. In response, the Jets opened Rodgers’ 21-day practice window, setting up for a possible return date.

Rodgers tore his Achilles on just the fourth snap of the season when the Jets faced the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. Now, with Rodgers returning to practice, what exactly is the NFL‘s 21-day practice window? Will he actually play this season?

What Is the NFL’s 21-Day Practice Window?

To put it simply, the 21-day practice window is the three-week period where teams get to see how far along a player is since being put on injured reserve (IR).

“A lot of guys coming off (injured reserve) are usually not ready to play football. There’s usually still a little bit of a health concern there. So you use these 21-day windows to see where they’re at,” said Robert Saleh, the Jets head coach.

When a player is put on IR, they must stay there for at least four weeks but can stay there as long as necessary. When a player is cleared for football activity, they can then have their 21-day window opened. This is the case with Rodgers, who is cleared for functional football activity but not to fully play football yet.

The next step would be, once the window expires, for the team to decide whether to activate the player off of injured reserve or rule them out for the rest of the season.

MORE: Should You Stash Aaron Rodgers for the Fantasy Playoffs?

For Rodgers, this means he will have a chance to get on the practice field and see how his Achilles is doing in minimal action. The Jets and Rodgers will then have the option to let him finish the season or rule him out and wait until next year.

Rodgers has been public about his want to play this season, but also the fact that it depends on where the Jets are as a team. He said he’s prioritizing his health but will consider returning depending on the Jets’ AFC playoff position.

Heading into Week 13 with a record of 4-7, the Jets’ playoff hopes are dwindling. They are coming off a 34-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins with Tim Boyle in his first start. The staff benched Zach Wilson in Week 11 following a poor performance against the Bills. Saleh said Boyle will start again in Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons.

If New York waits the entire 21-day period, the soonest Rodgers would return is Dec. 24, against the Washington Commanders.

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